Australia posted its biggest monthly jobs decline on record on Thursday because of coronavirus lockdown measures, even as social distancing rules begin to ease.
Monthly employment data for April showed jobs dived by a record 594,300 and the unemployment rate shot up to at 6.2%.
Worse is expected, with the Reserve Bank of Australia last week forecasting unemployment to hit about 10% as the local economy shrinks by 8% in the year to June.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the job losses were “heart breaking” and that economic numbers would get worse before getting better.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians must brace for more “hard news.”
“This is a tough day for Australia, a very tough day,” he told reporters.“Terribly shocking, although not unexpected.”
Australia had previously experienced an unbroken run of growth for more than two decades.
Australia imposed strict social distancing measures in March to tackle the pandemic, closing its borders to all non-citizens and ordering people to stay home unless on essential business. Pubs, sports centres, libraries and other public buildings were closed while cafes and restaurants were restricted to takeaway services.
Many shops and other businesses not explicitly ordered to close did so anyway in response to a drop in demand as people stayed home.
Officials have credited the lockdown measures with constraining the spread of the virus. Australia has recorded about 7,000 COVID-19 cases, including 98 deaths, significantly below the levels reported in North America and Europe.